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Is It a Myth That Mobile Will Never Supplant OTA Radio?

Can we assume that, if they have trouble in their every-day modes, that an enormous increase in use for streaming would add to their troubles?

MELBOURNE, Australia� Will streaming media one day supplant over-the-air radio as we know it?�It�s a topic discussed quite often in the virtual pages of Digital Radio Update.��

Recently, another article was published, this time in Australia�, on the same topic.��A recent speech by the CEO of Commercial Radio Australia Joan Warner provided the grist.��

The head of the Commercial Radio Australia has dismissed suggestions there will ever be a time when streaming of radio content on the internet overtakes the terrestrial broadcast of radio.�

On the future role of streaming radio, Warner dismissed it as viable replacement to the existing model, saying: �We frequently face the assumption that streaming will eventually or even now is replacing broadcast radio as the main method of listening to radio.�First of all, it isn�t. Secondly, it can�t. Using streaming over a mobile network to reach an audience of hundreds of thousands of people � all listening to the same program at the same time in good quality � is not practical, nor technically possible.�

According to Ms. Warner, CRA�s research shows that consumers are concerned about the cost of data in streaming their favorite programs on mobile.� At the same time, she conceded that there would be a �hybrid future� for the industry. �DAB+ does not buffer or cause network congestion if large numbers of listeners tune in,� said Warner. �With DAB+ and a smartphone you are automatically solving a number of problems; we know that consumers sometimes stream radio on their mobile phones but research conducted for us by The Hoop found that consumers had significant concerns around their data usage, and it was a huge drain on the phone�s battery through streaming radio.

That is not to say that radio does not consider streaming important � we do, and we believe we have a hybrid future where still the main mode of delivery will be broadcast with DAB+ supplemented or complemented by streaming/simulcast.

After examining Warner�s assumptions, I don�t think any of us would argue that the performance of streaming media, were it to be used by �hundreds of thousands of people� in a small area, would indeed be problematic, at best, for a mobile network; on the other hand, I don�t have an example at which to point to show that this is true.� So, let�s take a look at the more mundane, every-day usage of mobile networks.� Can we assume that if they have trouble in their every-day modes, that an enormous increase in use, for streaming media, would add to their troubles?� I for one believe that to be reasonable.�

Let�s turn, a website that that covers network related issues.� Recently they discussed results of a survey about the satisfaction of mobile network users:�

Your customers’ digital experience is bad, they’re increasingly alarmed about it and many have no idea even where to start figuring out where the problems are.

And it’s not just a few of your customers that want better quality; it’s most of them.

In a recent survey of top executives at US and UK enterprises, 78% of the responding companies are experiencing some inconsistency with the quality of their digital experiences.�

Still, we know the big 4 MNOs here in the States are continually working in improving their network performance, right?

Network operators expend considerable resources on improving the reliability of their networks, and yet the digital experience continues to be inconsistent and variable.

For network operators, it will always be critical to assure quality of service (QoS) and quality of experience (QoE), but all they can really do is optimize queuing at switches and routers.

Services are delivered through a chain of connections (last-mile provider, core, data center, caching, etc.) and layers of applications, and it’s increasingly rare that any single entity has complete control over the entire process. It’s difficult for anyone in the chain to notice anything going wrong in someone else’s domain, let alone address it. For customers, it makes it hard to identify the source of a problem is, let alone who’s responsible for fixing it.

I, for one, agree with Ms. Warner�s assertions, at least for today and the near future (say 5 years out). While it is true that the MNOs are building out even more infrastructure, adding spectrum, and increasingly making use of unlicensed spectrum and micro-cells, those that generate the content that mobile users want are doing it in a fashion that uses continually more and more bandwidth. In other words, the more bandwidth made available, the more that is needed. It�s an endless upward spiral.�

I have said all along in the pages of DRU that while streaming media is a very important way to reach our listeners, putting third parties in between us and them is problematic at best. Over-the-air broadcasters maintain a direct, unfettered means of reaching an unlimited number of listeners, unlike streaming media.� ��